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19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

 

The purpose of the Jerusalem Council was to show the early church that God had introduced a new economy, one distinguished from how He dealt with the nation Israel. The church was to be grace oriented, not law oriented.

15:19

Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,

James concluded that the Council should accept Gentile believers into the body of Christ without circumcision or any qualification other than trusting the blood of Christ to forgive sin. James agreed with Peter that Jewish believers should accept Gentiles into fellowship.

The church should give Gentile believers no “trouble” about this issue; that is, they should not impose requirements of circumcision and observance of the Mosaic law.

15:20

but [strong contrast] that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

The apostle made a practical suggestion that Gentile Christians should follow certain practices that were offensive to Jewish believers: (1) food associated with idols; (2) sexual immorality that would offend especially the believing Jews; (3) eating food offered to idols, improperly slaughtered; and (4) eating blood, which offended Jewish scruples.

15:21

For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

In weekly synagogue Scripture readings, teachers of the Mosaic law stressed the scruples listed in verse 20, making them important to Jews. Gentiles needed to be sensitive when they approached Jews on those issues (1 Co 8:13). Those who were gospel witnesses did not want to offend Jews unnecessarily.

Concluding his speech, James specified the audience of which he spoke—believing Jews. He did not deal with the issue of Gentiles on this subject, but he spoke about how to approach Jews with scruples.

PRINCIPLE:

Correspondence to Scripture is the ultimate test of truth.

APPLICATION:

Experience is not the test of truth; the Word of God is the ultimate standard for determining doctrine. That is why James quoted Amos.

Believers mature in doctrine need to exercise their liberty with care before immature believers. In our passage, mature believers limited their liberty toward the Jews to develop a base of communication with them (1 Co 9:19-33). 

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